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6 Places Where the Ground is Disappearing Right Beneath Our Feet

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4. Kiribati

32 coral atolls and one raised limestone island sprawled across two million miles of the Central Pacific make up the nation of Kiribati. The average height above sea level is just six feet, with a shrinking freshwater supply to complicate matters even further. Residents experience a high poverty rate and the myriad problems that come with it, like shockingly high infant mortality, low education and limited economic power when it comes to relocating or advocating for other solutions. 100,000 residents struggle to survive on these shrinking islands, wondering how long their island home will continue to exist, and where they will go from here.

Migration with dignity to neighboring Australia may be the best option for many as Kiribati slips beneath the waves.

5. Port Fourchon, Louisiana

18% of the daily energy needs of the United States are supported by this key Louisiana port. It might not be home to a native population with a long-established history, but it does highlight the national security ramifications of climate change and vanishing ground, because the area around the port slowly disappears under rising seas, it’s less able to function. And that’s not good for keeping up a steady supply of oil products to ensure stable prices and supplies.

The government is adapting to the risks of increased flooding with a variety of approaches including raised roadways and berms in an attempt to keep Port Fourchon operational, but the site bears close watching as an example of a locale where climate change and daily business directly clash.

6. North Pole 40, the Arctic

Russian researchers in the Arctic had an unpleasant surprise this year when the ice floe they were using as a research station started breaking up under them. Despite a long history of safely using ice floes for this very purpose, the Russian government had finally met its match with climate change, and entered a race against time to dispatch icebreakers to rescue the researchers and recover as much equipment as possible. The rapid melting rate of Arctic sea ice may make this kind of research station obsolete — and, of course, it’s those very same melting ice floes that are contributing to the rising sea levels around the globe.

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Photo credit: Jim Trodel

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172 comments

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3:23PM PDT on Jul 7, 2013

thanks for sharing

3:00PM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Most of the doomsday scenarios involve what will happen in a few decades if nothing is done. So far we have small rises in temperature and very minimal change in sea level. Early models predicted too rapid change by not accounting for global dimming from carbon, which does not reverse global warming but does reduce it by about 50%, and oceans absorbing the carbon. We have time to fix this if we work with eyes open instead of being in denial or acting as if the sky is falling.

3:00PM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

First off, yes there is climate change and yes humans are a major factor in it. The counter arguments I've seen come from a handful of individuals and while some raise good points they all wind up making even worse mistakes in their models than the ones they are attempting to refute.

Gerry has it correct. Note that most of these places have theoretical problems or erosion problems. When you look at the actual rise in sea levels it is very small so far, which makes sense as land ice has just begun to melt.

Kiribati has serious problems that are compounded by climate change but mostly in the form of violent weather and flooding which pollutes their groundwater with sea water. Kiribati may already be uninhabitable by the time sea levels seriously start to rise.

Nick, how is it you both deny human involvement in climate change and also peg China as the main culprit? I agree with a lot of your points but I can't agree that the Earth isn't warming or that human oil use isn't involved. I do agree we need to address China. While it's absurd to think human CO2 emissions aren't a problem the US's emission rates are falling even while global levels increase. China burns more coal in dirty plants which do more damage than other methods.

Most of the doomsday scenarios involve what will happen in a few decades if nothing is done. So far we have small rises in temperature and very minimal change in sea level. Early models predicted too rapid change by not accounting for global d

2:51PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

For the ignorant and self centered climate change deniers trying to water this down with some feeble excuse, this is not a cyclically natural occurence which might happens over millions of years and which the once intact planetary life systems can adapt to. When you pump 20+ billion tons of human emitted unabsorbed CO2 into the atmosphere every year, it has to go somewhere, and it does, it lingers in the upper atmosphere and stays there for an average of 100 years., where it acts chemically as greenhouse gas..simple reality and physics. And noone is claiming that sea ice is raising the ocean levels, it's from the land ice melting at accelerating rates from continent sized ice sheets of Greenland and West Antarctica. This is an planetary catastrophe and HUMANS are fully responsible.

2:01PM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

"Male" isn't what you call a tropical island.. it's an tiny island prison of human concrete and structures, no trees or vegetation left, perfect example of nature destroyed and nowhere to expand to. The same result happened to Easter Island a long time ago, all the trees were cut down animals and birds killed off, and the Easter Islanders died off. Earth is an island in space, and the same thing will happen on a planetary scale, humans will destroy Earth and force their own extnction only it will take a bit longer. Humans are so predictable.

8:01PM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

cool

2:00AM PDT on Jun 11, 2013

thankuu

9:28PM PDT on Jun 10, 2013

sadly noted

6:02PM PDT on Jun 10, 2013

Thank you.

9:01PM PDT on Jun 9, 2013

Not fair on these people and places, and also the animals/birds/trees that live there.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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